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Can People with Semantic Memory Deficits Re-learn Information?
DEWAR, B-K., WILSON, B.A., PATTERSON, K. & GRAHAM, K.S.
Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 12(S2): 21
Year of publication:
There have only been a few systematic studies into the acquisition of semantic material in people with semantic memory problems. As part of a larger project to investigate reacquisition of semantic material in cases of impaired semantic memory due to both progressive (semantic dementia) and non progressive (encephalitis) aetiologies, here we report the training of two patients post encephalitis. Selecting the semantic category of famous people, we trained each subject on ten items each consisting of a photograph (e.g. of Tony Blair), the corresponding name and a semantic fact (e.g. Longest serving UK Labour Prime Minister). Semantic material was trained with a mnemonic, using errorless learning paradigms of vanishing cues and expanded rehearsal. The participants also engaged in home practice. Recall of all items was tested at the beginning of each session. Maintenance and generalisation were assessed at the end of training. Both subjects improved relative to baseline in naming of the photographs but recall of the semantic fact was less robust. There was some evidence of subsequent maintenance of learning following cessation of practice and one but not the other participant demonstrated some generalisation to new photographs of the famous target people. Results are discussed with respect to (a) the characteristics of semantic re-learning and (b) methodological issues of treatment for person identification impairments.